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Wally Skalij /Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Ratings for the Olympic Games opening ceremony were down 36% compared to 2016, according to preliminary numbers from NBC Universal. 

Why it matters: The figures for the Tokyo Games event mark the lowest audience for an Olympics opening ceremony event in over three decades, per Reuters.

  • Roughly $1 billion has been spent on advertising around the Olympics. Ratings are the only real metric marketers can use to justify much of that spend.

By the numbers: About 17 million people watched the event on broadcast and streaming, according to NBC. Early broadcast numbers suggest some 10 million people watched the event on linear TV.

  • By comparison, about 26.5 million people and 27.8 million people tuned in to the Olympic opening events in Rio in 2016 and Pyeongchang in 2018, respectively.

Yes, but: Some of this is out of NBC's hands. Without fans in the stands, the content may not be as compelling to viewers this year as it has been in the past.

Be smart: The Olympics isn't just about advertising for NBC, it's also the company's big streaming debut.

  • A lot of the network's success this year will be determined by whether it can get people to subscribe to its streaming service. NBC is putting some of the most popular Olympics sporting events exclusively on Peacock this year.

The big picture: The opening ceremony ratings decline isn't shocking, given the general decline in linear TV ratings that's been expedited during the pandemic.

  • Ratings for major sports events, like the Super Bowl and World Series, were also remarkably low this past year, as were ratings for all of the major award shows.
  • Olympic opening ceremony viewership has also been in decline for years.

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage

Go deeper

Updated Aug 24, 2021 - Sports

The U.S. Paralympic athletes to watch

Expand chart
Data: Team USA; Cartogram: Connor Rothschild/Axios

The Paralympic Games officially kicked off in Tokyo on Tuesday after a yearlong delay due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The big picture: The roster of more than 230 U.S. athletes features 129 returning Paralympians, including four six-time Paralympians.

Stock buybacks boom as corporate cash piles grow

The Delta variant is keeping more companies cautious about how to invest the mountains of cash they have at their disposal. That hesitancy has led, in part, to corporate spending on stock buybacks outpacing capital expenditures this year. 

Why it matters: Companies hoarded cash and raised prices over the past year — leaving them with a lot of money and decisions about what to do with it.

2 hours ago - Health

Health policies at stake in Democrats' infrastructure bet

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Democrats are at a pivotal moment in their quest to expand health care coverage, slash the cost of prescription drugs and create a social structure that prioritizes people's health.

Driving the news: Democrats have a clear list of health care priorities they'll be fighting for this week. Among them is a measure to expand Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing benefits.